Smithsonian Parking Attendant Pleads Guilty to Stealing Lot Fees

Silver Spring man one of three arrested for allegedly taking $400,000 from the Air & Space Museum's parking lot fees.

A Maryland man who once worked as a parking lot attendant at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum pleaded guilty Friday to stealing $400,000 in visitor parking fees at the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.

Meseret Terefe, 36, of Silver Spring, Md., agreed to a plea agreement in federal court last week. Terefe was arrested in August and charged with embezzling and stealing federal monies belonging to the Smithsonian Institution.

Two other parking attendants, Freweyni Mebrahtu, 45, of Sterling, and Genete Yigzu, 46, of Alexandria, were also arrested and charged with the same criminal complaints.

According to a press release from the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Terefere admitted to stealing parking fees in late 2009 by “unplugging the electronic vehicle counters installed in the parking booths or by not handing customers a serialized parking ticket to display in the car windshield after they paid their entrance fee” while he was an employee of Parking Management, Inc. (PMI). The Udvar-Hazy Center parking lot held approximately 2,000 vehicles in March 2009, the release states.

It’s estimated the Smithsonian lost at least $400,000 over three years due to Terefe’s action.

Terefe faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 14, 2012.

Related coverage:

  • Smithsonian Parking Lot Attendant to Enter Plea Agreement Friday
rickpat October 01, 2012 at 02:47 AM
What? $400,000? Couldn’t the management of the Air and Space Museum have been more vigilant over those three years? I mean $400,000 – that’s a helluva lot of revenue to let go down the drain. Couldn’t someone working there have entertained the possibility that an enterprising parking attendant could theoretically get away with something like that, and that therefore he or she should be monitored for possible discrepancies? Couldn’t someone there have noticed that the revenues were far less than what they should have been? Couldn't someone there have looked at about how many car were in the parking lot and calculate how much revenue they should have been bringing in for a given day, and realize that something was amiss? Couldn't some heads have rolled?


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